One small incident at a time. I was reading through the news today and stumbled upon a story about a man in Philadelphia that found out first hand that obeying the law isn’t good enough when dealing with the government representatives that we call the “police department”. The story struck me, but not because of the way that the man was, and continues to be, treated by the police officers. No, the story instead struck me because of the stance that the police department has taken in the months since the incident. They not only blatantly refuse to apologize for the way this man was treated, they have gone a step further. They issued a warning that anyone who undertakes a specific legal activity “will be inconvenienced” by the police officers going forward. A prime example of government trampling our rights yet again.
Let me state up front that I am well aware of the dangers that face a police officer as he goes about his day to day routine. The streets have become a dangerous place, despite the “protect and serve” mantra that we find emblazoned on the side of nearly every police vehicle. And the reality is that many people out there no longer respect the men in blue. I am not one of them. I respect them, but I am also very cognizant of the fact that the hatred towards police officers is in many cases a result of improper or unjustifiable conduct by police officers in the past (and apparently in the present as well). The belief that they merit respect simply because they have on that uniform is something I used to embrace, but no longer do.
I do still respect police officers. I really do. In 95% of my encounters with them, I will listen to their direction, offer them the courtesy that I would offer anyone else, and thank them for what they are doing. But what I refuse to do these days is allow them to treat me like I am less than them. Because it really does anger me when I see them treat others with disrespect. They are supposed to be representatives of the government, SERVING the people of the community. They are not supposed to be some thug authority figure who are endowed with the right to treat people badly, demean or belittle people at will, or put a gun in someone’s face without serious cause. They are not supposed to be a real life incarnation of Cartman, abusing everyone simply because they have a badge and a gun.
Before I go further, allow me to offer the audio tape that spurred this article. In it you will find Mark Fiorino, a law-abiding citizen, confronted by and abused by the Philadelphia police. Take note of the way that he is treated from the very first word that the police officer says to him: “Hey Junior…”
Allow me to put my thoughts out there on this particular incident. I understand that some will judge Mr. Fiorino harshly given that his actions of having a recorder were premeditated. He was obviously expecting to be harassed by the Philadelphia police department and looking to embarrass them if they did. Sadly, his expectations were warranted and he captured on tape the exact thing that he was expecting to capture. Does that make him an asshole? I don’t think so. I think it makes him a citizen who is no longer willing to blindly accept being mistreated by government representatives that are grossly overstepping their authority.
Obviously, there was no video to go along with the audio. But it appears to me that he at no time acted in a threatening manner towards the officer. Remember that this altercation begins with the officer pointing a gun at the citizen, who at that time has done nothing other than walk down the street legally carrying a firearm in a holster on his hip. For doing absolutely nothing wrong, he finds himself beginning this situation at the business end of a government firearm. From there he repeated offers to show the officer his ID and permit and gives the officer the very code that allows him to carry openly. The important thing to remember is that at no time did the citizen make a move towards his weapon or threaten the officer in any way what-so-ever.
The officer, on the other hand, is belligerent from the beginning, ignorant of the law, and uses profanity over and over towards the citizen. When the additional officers arrive on the scene, they immediately begin yelling, threatening, and then forcefully place the law-abiding citizen on the ground. They search him, finding a recorder. They detain him. The demean him and treat him like a common criminal for no other reason than because they can. This is what police officers have become. They are rude, abusive, and have a “god complex,” completely forgetting that they are supposed to be representatives of the government. Unwittingly, they are perfect examples of what government has become in America: arrogant, abusive, and able to mistreat citizens with impunity.
And this was a well spoken white guy. Can you imagine how much worse it likely would have been had this been a black man with baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt? Had that been the case, would it have ended with a “justified shooting” by a police officer of an innocent man? Had the officer shot Mr. Fiorino in this incident, would this tape exonerating him have ever seen the light of day? Or would the police report read, “suspect made move towards weapon, officer fearing for safety of self and citizens was left no recourse other than warranted discharge of service revolver.”
So what was the fallout from this situation? Surely the officer was reprimanded for his treatment of a law-abiding citizen. Surely a public apology was issued from the Philadelphia Police department. It goes without saying that Mr. Fiorino’s incident resulted in the Philly PD re-training officers and assuring the public that law-abiding citizens won’t be accosted in the future in the way that Mr. Fiorino was. Right?
After publishing the audio tape on YouTube for the world to hear, Mr. Fiorino was again abused by the system. The PPD issued a warrant for his arrest on the charges of disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment. I listened to the tape and now so have you. Did you hear anything that said he was disorderly or recklessly endangered anyone? Me either. Yet Mr. Fiorino now faces two years in prison for the incident that you listened to above. And to go further, the Philly Police issued a formal statement saying that citizens who legally open carry their weapon will be inconvenienced going forward. They can expect to be placed face-down on the ground until officers can verify that they are not breaking the law. In other words, if you are not breaking the law in Philadelphia, you can expect to be treated as if you are. It’s like martial law without the declaration!
And let’s be honest with each other here. What is the likelihood that someone who is walking down the street openly carrying a firearm in Philadelphia is not doing so legally. Do people without a license to do so, often put it out there on their hip for the police to see? I think not. Which means that the reality is that nearly 100% of those that openly carry are the ones that are doing so legally! Yet the PPD has determined that they are within their rights to place you on the ground like a criminal. You want the best part of that entire audio tape? The fact that the officer preferred that he carry the weapon concealed! Had he concealed his weapon, the cop had no issue with it. But putting it out there for everyone to see makes the officer nervous!
It is high time that we demand better of our public officials. It is sad to me how many times I have had to write that last sentence over the two years that I have been writing at SUFA. As citizens we have the right to live our lives within the laws without fear of being accosted or threatened by the very officers that are charged with “protecting and serving.” So here is my message for law enforcement officers throughout the country:
I understand that your job is tough. But that doesn’t give you the right to treat people badly. You work for us, remember that. We don’t have to tolerate being berated, threatened for no reason, or cussed at, simply because you have a blue shirt and a badge. I am happy to help you where I can. I am happy to obey your directives when you treat me like a person. But if you believe that that badge and gun make you somehow better than me, that it entitles you to treat me badly or demean me or disrespect me, then you are in for a rude awakening. I won’t take it lying down. I am not stupid enough to act in a way that will give you the opportunity to shoot me. But I will absolutely do everything in my power to ruin your career after it is all over. You can either act in a way that is expected when you put that uniform on or I will work to make sure that you don’t get to wear it because you don’t deserve to wear it.
I have long supported officers in situations where they are threatened, where people push them or move towards them in a threatening way. I won’t tolerate people throwing things at officers or berating them or threatening them. I have supported officers reacting responsibly to what is going on around them. And I will continue to do so. But what happened in this case is not justifiable. And I will not support officers treating law-abiding citizens as though they are criminals. It is merely an extension of the authoritarian and elitist mentality that permeates nearly every level of government office.
As a bit of a parting gift, I offer this video that will warm your heart and show you the guy of guy that should be running this country. Yes, he is a bit on the wild side, but he is exactly what we need to turn this ship around. Ted Nugent gives a CNN lefty a lesson in 2nd Amendment reality.